New York's native and indigenous people focus of new exhibit

LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) -- The National Museum of the American Indian sits at the southern tip of Manhattan, an area once inhabited by the indigenous people of this region.

So in a sense, its newest long-term exhibition, "Native New York," pays homage to that important past.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey to 12 significant places in New York, from Long Island through Manhattan to Niagara Falls.

A wooden walkway winds past indigenous artifacts, interactive installations and illustrations meant to show the complexity of native life in New York, past and present.

"We're hoping that people come into the exhibition and start to question the stories they've learned about the history of New York State and City," said Smithsonian spokesperson Lisa Austin.

One of the stories addressed is the alleged sale of Manhattan by the Lenape people to Dutch settlers for $24 worth of trinkets.

It is a tale historians say is inaccurate at best.

"When you begin to look at the cultural values behind that and what must have led to that misunderstanding," said Austin, "you start to learn that they had completely different ideas about what was happening."

Similarly, the story of the first Thanksgiving generally ignores the backstory of how the English settlers would likely never have had a successful harvest to celebrate without the generosity and guidance of the native Wampanoag people.

The museum spent five years consulting with tribes and native scholars, not only to learn more about the places included here, but also to figure out what else is important for people to know.

Without acknowledging the history of Native Americans, it is clear that there is no complete understanding of New York - or American - history.

The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

They are open on Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving, which is Native American Heritage Day.

Resources about Thanksgiving, Native voices and perspective, and more are available on the museum website, AmericanIndian.si.edu.

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